Editorial from the December 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard
THE recent Manifesto of the S.D.P. (or is it S.D.F. ?) should more properly be dealt with in our “Literary Curiosities” column ; for a more remarkable document probably never emanated from any political organisation. As a pronouncement of a “Socialist" Party on so important a question as that of the unemployed it is even more remarkable.
The banquet and the pageant in honour of the Kaiser’s visit is “a studied insult to the unemployed of this country," although why so more than the Lord Mayor’s Show or any other feast we are not informed. Yet only three lines lower down this “studied insult" is referred to as a “cool manifestation of indifference to the wants of the workers," while yet another change takes place a little further on where the "cool indifference" becomes “a piece of wanton insolence.”
But the final stroke is here: “when we read that this arrogant autocrat is to be presented with a Gold Casket we wonder how much more our patience will be called upon to endure." So the presentation to the Kaiser is the last straw. The unemployed can stand many things just as the employed working class stands many things, but the presentation to the Kaiser is really too much.
The whole pronouncement has but two positive propositions to make; one is to the unemployed to “once more’’ assemble on Tower Hill, and the second is “to let the world know that you are asking ‘How long, O Lord, how long?”’
According to Justice of November 16th, J. E. Williams, whose signature is appended to the Manifesto as the organiser of the unemployed, although his authorship is doubtful, has been “demanding work for the starving unemployed" for the last twenty years, so that, if we may presume to answer for the Lord, we may safely say that, since twenty years has seen a worsening of the problem despite their efforts, we shall be a very long time yet at the Bame rate of progress.
The sequel duly followed the demonstration. After the usual speeches and the resolution “calling upon the Government to introduce . . . such legislation as will provide work for all who need it (which the Socialist knows perfectly well a capitalist government would not do if it could, and could not if it would), the usual procession was formed which marched to the accompaniment of the “Red Flag” punctuated with hoots and boos for the Kaiser, until it fell foul of the police, was broken up, and some of its participators arrested.
This farce, for to the Socialist it is undoubtedly as ridiculous a farce as was ever perpetrated in the name of Socialism, is to Justice so successful as to be a cause for congratulation to its organiser; although the postscript to the article in Justice seems to indicate that the congratulation was penned before the demonstration had taken place!
To us the antics of a professing Socialist body on so essential a manifestation of the insanity of tbs system they are supposed to be able to point the way out of, is ridiculous in the extreme. Unemployment is an inevitable feature of capitalism, and is impossible of removal without at the same time abolishing the capitalist system that produces it. That is a fact known to any Socialist with the most elementary knowledge of the economics of capitalism, and is certainly well known to the S.D.F. unemployed organisers. Yet instead of educating the workers, employed as well as unemployed, as to the facts of the case, emphasising that only by the conscious action of the workers upon the political field will their emancipation be accomplished, and concentrating, as Socialists presumably should, on Socialism, and not like the I.L.P. on Old Age Pensions this year and something else next, they consciously mislead the unemployed to imagine that the capitalist government will introduce legislation if only the unemployed call upon them loudly enough. If they don’t think that, there is no justification for their resolution.
Yet the fact remains that the prime cause of unemployment is the robbery of the workers by which the capitalist class appropriate the whole of the wealth produced by the workers, returning to them just as much, on the average, as will keep them physically fit to continue working. The difference between the quantities produced and consumed by the working class (a difference continually increasing with every increase in the productivity of labour) represents a surplus which all the waste and all the luxury of its owners cannot absorb, with the result that the markets are glutted with an excess of commodities. Thus the “over-production,” the crisis, and the slackening of production involving an increase of unemployment. Since capitalism can never pay such wages to the workers as to enable them to buy back the whole of the wealth they have produced, the existence of an unemployed section is inevitably bound up with the continuation of the system itself. And, paradoxical as it may appear, the only direction in which palliation of that unemployment lies, is along the line of the waste of that surplus, or the channel of charities, &c. that tends to decrease the disproportion between the wealth produced and the wealth enjoyed by the workers that lies at the bottom of the problem of the unemployed.
All this is known to the Socialist, and he, therefore, wastes no time in attempting to palliate that which, in the nature of the case, does not allow of palliation, but by continually pointing out the only direction in which working-class progress can be made, that is by the propaganda of Socialism and the building up of a movement for Socialism as the only solution of the extreme poverty of unemployment, as well as the poverty of employment, works not alone in the sound direction straight towards emancipation, but at the same time inspires the capitalist class with such fear of the wrath to come as to open their purse strings and hasten the administration of their sops for what good they may be worth. The very fact that after the S.D.F. concentration last year and the year before on the question of unemployment an Unemployed Bill, in which they claimed to have seen their influence, was produced and has proved a failure from all points of view, especially the unemployed one, should be sufficient to provoke any Socialists who may still belong to that organisation to consider the advisability of trying the more logical method, the action more in keeping with their professions, that as Socialism is the only solution of unemployment, they will cease to advocate anything else than Socialism.